How io_uring and eBPF Will Revolutionize Programming in Linux

Issues will by no design be the the same again after the grime settles. And sure, I’m talking about Linux.

As I write this, a range of the sphere is in lockdown due to COVID-19. It’s sturdy to inform how issues will gape when right here’s over (this is able to maybe be over, correct?), but one thing is evidently: the sphere is now no longer the the same. It’s a unparalleled feeling: it’s as if we ended 2019 in one planet and started 2020 in one other.

Whereas we all fear about jobs, the economic system and our healthcare systems, one varied thing that has modified dramatically could well additionally maintain escaped your consideration: the Linux kernel.

That’s because infrequently one thing reveals up that replaces evolution with revolution. The unlit swan. Cheerful issues enjoy the introduction of the automotive, which forever modified the panorama of cities right by means of the sphere. In most cases it’s less glad issues, enjoy 9/11 or our contemporary nemesis, COVID-19.

I’ll do what came about to Linux in the glad bucket. But it absolutely’s a sure revolution, one which nearly all of us haven’t seen yet. That’s due to 2 contemporary, inviting interfaces: eBPF (or BPF for short) and io_uring, the latter added to Linux in 2019 and soundless in very lively development. These interfaces could well additionally gape evolutionary, but they’re innovative in the sense that they’ll — we wager — entirely commerce the vogue capabilities work with and take a look at the Linux Kernel.

Listed right here, we can explore what makes these interfaces particular and so powerfully transformational, and dig deeper into our abilities at ScyllaDB with io_uring.

How Did Linux I/O Gadget Calls Evolve?

In the humble days of the Linux you grew to seize and admire, the kernel equipped the following system calls to address file descriptors, be they storage recordsdata or sockets:

These system calls are what we call blockading system calls. When your code calls them this is able to maybe sleep and be taken out of the processor except the operation is accomplished. Perhaps the ideas is in a file that resides in the Linux page cache, in which case this is able to maybe in fact return without extend, and even it wants to be fetched over the community in a TCP connection or be taught from an HDD.

Every novel programmer knows what’s unsuitable with this: As devices continue to net faster and capabilities more advanced, blockading becomes undesirable for all but the most easy issues. Restful system calls, enjoy seize() and ballot() and their more novel counterpart, epoll() came into play: once called, they’ll return a listing of file descriptors that are ready. In varied phrases, reading from or writing to them wouldn’t block. The utility can now guarantee blockading will no longer happen.

It’s beyond our scope to do why, but this readiness mechanism for sure works finest for community sockets and pipes — to the purpose that epoll() doesn’t even accept storage recordsdata. For storage I/O, classically the blockading difficulty has been solved with thread swimming pools: the main thread of execution dispatches the actual I/O to helper threads that will block and elevate the operation on the main thread’s behalf.

As time handed, Linux grew even more flexible and highly efficient: it looks database machine could well additionally no longer are trying to utilize the Linux page cache. It then grew to change into likely to initiate a file and specify that we prefer say entry to the tool. Convey entry, in most cases in most cases known as Convey I/O, or the O_DIRECT flag, required the utility to support an eye on its own caches — which databases could well additionally are trying to attain anyway, but additionally enable for zero-reproduction I/O as the utility buffers could well additionally additionally be despatched to and populate from the storage tool straight.

As storage devices received faster, context switches to helper threads grew to change into even less neat. Some devices available in the market at the present time, enjoy the Intel Optane sequence maintain latencies in the single-digit microsecond vary — the the same describe of magnitude of a context switch. Concentrate on of it this vogue: every context switch is a omitted alternative to dispatch I/O.

With Linux 2.6, the kernel gained an Asynchronous I/O (linux-aio for short) interface. Asynchronous I/O in Linux is easy at the surface: it is likely you’ll maybe well submit I/O with the io_submit system call, and at a later time it is likely you’ll maybe well call io_getevents and bring collectively back events that are ready. Currently, Linux even gained the flexibility so that you’ll want to to well add epoll() to the mix: now it is likely you’ll maybe well additionally no longer finest submit storage I/O work, but additionally submit your blueprint to seize whether a socket (or pipe) is readable or writable.

Linux-aio modified into once a likely sport-changer. It permits programmers to create their code totally asynchronous. But due to the the vogue it evolved, it fell wanting these expectations. To settle a peek at and realize why, let’s hear from Mr. Torvalds himself in his traditional upbeat temper, in response to somebody trying to extend the interface to enhance opening recordsdata asynchronously:

So I mediate right here’s ridiculously gruesome.

AIO is a imperfect advert-hoc invent, with the main excuse being “varied, less proficient of us, made that invent, and we are implementing it for compatibility because database of us — who seldom maintain any shred of taste — in fact use it”.

— Linus Torvalds (on

First, as database of us ourselves, we’d are trying to settle this likelihood to apologize to Linus for our lack of taste. But additionally extend on why he is correct. Linux AIO is indeed rigged with complications and obstacles:

  • Linux-aio finest works for O_DIRECT recordsdata, rendering it cease to ineffective for identical outdated, non-database capabilities.
  • The interface isn’t any longer designed to be extensible. Even though it is some distance likely — we did extend it — every contemporary addition is advanced.
  • Even though the interface is technically non-blockading, there are a range of reasons that will maybe lead it to blockading, veritably in ways in that are inconceivable to predict.

We are able to clearly gaze the evolutionary aspect of this: interfaces grew organically, with contemporary interfaces being added to goal collectively with the contemporary ones. The bellow of blockading sockets modified into once dealt with with an interface to take a look at for readiness. Storage I/O gained an asynchronous interface tailor-made-match to work with the form of capabilities that in fact wished it for the time being and nothing else. That modified into once the character of issues. Until… io_uring came along.

What Is io_uring?

io_uring is the brainchild of Jens Axboe, a seasoned kernel developer who has been fervent in the Linux I/O stack for a while. Mailing listing archaeology tells us that this work started with a easy motivation: as devices net extremely rapidly, interrupt-driven work is now no longer as atmosphere staunch as polling for completions — a general theme that underlies the architecture of performance-oriented I/O systems.

But as the work evolved, it grew staunch into a radically varied interface, conceived from the flooring up to enable totally asynchronous operation. It’s a general principle of operation is cease to linux-aio: there is an interface to push work into the kernel, and one other interface to retrieve accomplished work.

But there are some a actually great variations:

  • By invent, the interfaces are designed to be in fact asynchronous. With the correct goal of flags, this is able to maybe by no design provoke any work in the system call context itself and can staunch queue work. This guarantees that the utility will by no design block.
  • It works with any form of I/O: it doesn’t topic in the occasion that they’re cached recordsdata, say-entry recordsdata, and even blockading sockets. That is correct: due to its async-by-invent nature, there just isn’t any longer a need for ballot+be taught/write to address sockets. One submits a blockading be taught, and once it is some distance ready this is able to maybe show up in the completion ring.
  • It’s flexible and extensible: contemporary opcodes are being added at a rate that leads us to imagine that indeed quickly this is able to maybe develop to re-put in power each Linux system call.

The io_uring interface works by means of two predominant files buildings: the submission queue entry (sqe) and the completion queue entry (cqe). Conditions of these buildings are living in a shared memory single-producer-single-person ring buffer between the kernel and the utility.

The utility asynchronously provides sqes to the queue (doubtlessly many) and then tells the kernel that there is work to attain. The kernel does its thing, and when work is ready it posts the outcomes in the cqe ring. This also has the added revenue that system calls are now batched. Undergo in ideas Meltdown? At the time I wrote about how dinky it affected our Scylla NoSQL database, since we could well well batch our I/O system calls by means of aio. Other than now we are able to batch some distance more than staunch the storage I/O system calls, and this energy can be on the market to any utility.

The utility, on every occasion it wants to take a look at whether work is ready or no longer, staunch looks to be like at the cqe ring buffer and consumes entries in the occasion that they’re ready. There’s not any such thing as a wish to whisk to the kernel to indulge in these entries.

Right here are some of the operations that io_uring helps: be taught, write, ship, recv, accept, openat, stat, and even some distance more for sure expert ones enjoy fallocate.

Right here isn’t any longer an evolutionary step. Even though io_uring is a chunk of of the same to aio, its extensibility and architecture are disruptive: it brings the flexibility of asynchronous operations to anybody, in location of confining it to for sure expert database capabilities.

Our CTO, Avi Kivity, made the case for async at the Core C++ 2019 match. The backside line is this; in novel multicore, multi-CPU devices, the CPU itself is now in general a community, the intercommunication between the general CPUs is one other community, and calls to disk I/O are successfully one other. There are factual the reasons why community programming is accomplished asynchronously, and you’re going to maintain to imagine that for your individual utility development too.

It fundamentally adjustments the vogue Linux capabilities are to be designed: As a substitute of a whisk along with the circulate of code that factors syscalls when wished, that need to take into chronicle whether or no longer a file is ready, they naturally change into an match-loop that constantly add issues to a shared buffer, deals with the old entries that accomplished, rinse, repeat.

So, what does that gape enjoy? The code block under is an instance on how to dispatch a entire array of reads to multiple file descriptors without extend down the io_uring interface:

At a later time, in an match-loop manner, we are able to take a look at which reads are ready and process them. The finest section of it is some distance that due to its shared-memory interface, no system calls are wished to indulge in these events. The person staunch need to be careful to dispute the io_uring interface that the events were consumed.

This simplified instance works for reads finest, but it is some distance uncomplicated to gaze how we are able to batch all forms of operations collectively by means of this unified interface. A queue sample also goes thoroughly with it: it is likely you’ll maybe well staunch queue operations at one pause, dispatch, and indulge in what’s ready at the varied pause.

Improved Capabilities

Other than the consistency and extensibility of the interface, io_uring offers a plethora of evolved parts for for sure expert use conditions. Right here are a few of them:

  • File registration: on every occasion an operation is issued for a file descriptor, the kernel has to exhaust cycles mapping the file descriptor to its interior representation. For repeated operations over the the same file, io_uring permits you to pre-register these recordsdata and set on the search for.
  • Buffer registration: analogous to file registration, the kernel has to device and unmap memory areas for Convey I/O. io_uring permits these areas to be pre-registered if the buffers could well additionally additionally be reused.
  • Pollring: for very rapidly devices, the payment of processing interrupts is staunch. io_uring permits the person to verbalize off these interrupts and indulge in all on the market events by means of polling.
  • Linked operations: permits the person to ship two operations that are reckoning on every varied. They are dispatched at the the same time, but the 2d operation finest begins when the first one returns.

And as with varied areas of the interface, contemporary parts are also being added snappy.


As we talked about, the io_uring interface is largely driven by the wants of most modern hardware. So we could well well quiz some performance positive aspects. Are they right here?

For customers of linux-aio, enjoy ScyllaDB, the positive aspects are anticipated to be few, centered in some verbalize workloads and come mostly from the evolved parts enjoy buffer and file registration and the ballotring. Right here is because io_uring and linux-aio are no longer that varied as we hope to maintain made certain in this article: io_uring is before the entire lot bringing the general advantageous parts of linux-aio to the heaps.

We maintain traditional the successfully-acknowledged fio utility to imagine 4 varied interfaces: synchronous reads, posix-aio (which is applied as a thread pool), linux-aio and io_uring. In the first take a look at, we prefer all reads to hit the storage, and no longer use the running system page cache in any admire. We then ran the assessments with the Convey I/O flags, which could well maintain to be the bread and butter for linux-aio. The take a look at is conducted on NVMe storage that ought as a design to be taught at 3.5M IOPS. We traditional 8 CPUs to toddle 72 fio jobs, every issuing random reads right by means of four recordsdata with an iodepth of 8. This makes sure that the CPUs toddle at saturation for all backends and can be the limiting part in the benchmark. This allows us to gaze the habits of every interface at saturation. Expose that with ample CPUs all interfaces would be ready to at some point soon attain the chubby disk bandwidth. This kind of take a look at wouldn’t dispute us great.

backend IOPS context switches IOPS ±% vs io_uring
sync 814,000 27,625,004 -42.6%
posix-aio (thread pool) 433,000 64,112,335 -69.4%
linux-aio 1,322,000 10,114,149 -6.7%
io_uring (general) 1,417,000 11,309,574
io_uring (enhanced) 1,486,000 11,483,468 4.9%

Table 1: performance comparability of 1kB random reads at 100% CPU utilization the use of Convey I/O, where files is by no design cached: synchronous reads, posix-aio (makes use of a thread pool), linux-aio, and the basic io_uring to boot to io_uring the use of its evolved parts.

We are able to gaze that as we quiz, io_uring is a chunk of faster than linux-aio, but nothing innovative. The use of evolved parts enjoy buffer and file registration (io_uring enhanced) offers us an further enhance, which is candy, but nothing that justifies altering your entire utility, except it is likely you’ll maybe well additionally very successfully be a database trying to squeeze out every operation the hardware can give. Every io_uring and linux-aio are around twice as rapidly as the synchronous be taught interface, which in turn is twice as rapidly as the thread pool approach employed by posix-aio, which is surprisingly at the birth.

The motive why posix-aio is the slowest is easy to attain if we gape at the context switches column at Table 1: every match in which the system call would block, implies one further context switch. And in this take a look at, all reads will block. The predicament is staunch worse for posix-aio. Now no longer finest there is the context switch between the kernel and the utility for blockading, the somewhat a few threads in the utility need to exit and in the CPU.

However the actual energy of io_uring could well additionally additionally be understood when we gape at the varied aspect of the scale. In a 2d take a look at, we preloaded the general memory with the ideas in the recordsdata and proceeded to predicament the the same random reads. Every thing is equal to the old take a look at, with the exception of we now use buffered I/O and quiz the synchronous interface to by no design block — all results are coming from the running system page cache, and none from storage.

Backend IOPS context switches IOPS ±% vs io_uring
sync 4,906,000  105,797 -2.3%
posix-aio (thread pool) 1,070,000 114,791,187 -78.7%
linux-aio 4,127,000 105,052 -17.9%
io_uring 5,024,000 106,683

Table 2: comparability between the somewhat a few backends. Take a look at factors 1kB random reads the use of buffered I/O recordsdata with preloaded recordsdata and a sizzling cache. The take a look at is toddle at 100% CPU.

We don’t quiz a range of contrast between synchronous reads and io_uring interface in this case because no reads will block. And that’s indeed what we gaze. Expose, nonetheless, that in real existence capabilities that attain more than staunch be taught the general time there could be a contrast, since io_uring helps batching many operations in the the same system call.

The quite lots of two interfaces, nonetheless, endure a staunch penalty: the staunch desire of context switches in the posix-aio interface due to its thread pool entirely destroys the benchmark performance at saturation. Linux-aio, which isn’t any longer designed for buffered I/O, in any admire, in fact becomes a synchronous interface when traditional with buffered I/O recordsdata. So now we pay the associated price of the asynchronous interface — having to cut up the operation in a dispatch and indulge in section, with out realizing any of the benefits.

Accurate capabilities could be somewhere in the center: some blockading, some non-blockading operations. Other than now there just isn’t any longer a longer the necessity to fear about what’s going to happen. The io_uring interface performs successfully in any circumstance. It doesn’t impose a penalty when the operations would no longer block, is totally asynchronous when the operations would block, and does not rely on threads and expensive context switches to attain its asynchronous habits. And what’s even better: though our instance centered on random reads, io_uring will work for a staunch listing of opcodes. It could well maybe well initiate and cease recordsdata, goal timers, transfer files to and from community sockets. All the use of the the same interface.

ScyllaDB and io_uring

Because of Scylla scales up to 100% of server potential sooner than scaling out, it relies exclusively on Convey I/O and we had been the use of linux-aio since the initiate.

In our crawl in direction of io_uring, we maintain at the origin considered results as excessive as 50% better in some workloads. At closer inspection, that made certain that right here’s because our implementation of linux-aio modified into once no longer as factual as it’ll be. This, in my see, highlights one in general underappreciated aspect of performance: how easy it is some distance to attain it. As we mounted our linux-aio implementation based on the deficiencies io_uring shed gentle into, the performance contrast all but disappeared. But that took effort, to repair an interface we had been the use of for many years. For io_uring, reaching that modified into once trivial.

On the alternative hand, moreover that, io_uring could well additionally additionally be traditional for some distance more than staunch file I/O (as already talked about over and over at some point soon of this article). And it comes with for sure expert excessive performance interfaces enjoy buffer registration, file registration, and a ballotinterface with no interrupts.

When io_uring’s evolved parts are traditional, we attain gaze a performance contrast: we seen a 5% speedup when reading 512-byte payloads from a single CPU in an Intel Optane tool, which is per the fio ends in Tables 1 and 2. Whereas that doesn’t sound enjoy lots, that’s very precious for databases trying to create the most out of the hardware.


  Throughput         :      330 MB/s
  Lat moderate        :     1549 usec
  Lat quantile= 0.5 :     1547 usec
  Lat quantile=0.95 :     1694 usec
  Lat quantile=0.99 :     1703 usec
  Lat quantile=0.999 :     1950 usec
  Lat max            :     2177 usec
io_uring, with buffer and file registration and ballot:
  Throughput         :      346 MB/s
  Lat moderate        :     1470 usec
  Lat quantile=0.5  :     1468 usec
  Lat quantile=0.95 :     1558 usec
  Lat quantile=0.99 :     1613 usec
  Lat quantile=0.999 :     1674 usec
  Lat max            :     1829 usec
Learning 512-byte buffers from an Intel Optane tool from a single CPU. Parallelism of 1000 in-flight requests. There’s extremely dinky contrast between linux-aio and io_uring for the basic interface. But when evolved parts are traditional, a 5% contrast is considered.

The io_uring interface is advancing like a flash. For many of its parts to come back, it plans to rely on one other earth-shattering contemporary addition to the Linux Kernel: eBPF.

What Is eBPF?

eBPF stands for extended Berkeley Packet Filter. Undergo in ideas iptables? As the name implies, the usual BPF permits the person to specify rules that could be applied to community packets as they whisk along with the circulate by means of the community. This has been section of Linux for years.

But when BPF received extended, it allowed customers so that you’ll want to to well add code that is executed by the kernel in a secure manner in varied aspects of its execution, no longer finest in the community code.

I will suggest the reader to discontinue right here and be taught this sentence again, to fully use its implications: You have to well well additionally manufacture arbitrary code in the Linux kernel now. To attain for sure despite it is likely you’ll maybe well additionally very successfully be trying to maintain.

eBPF capabilities maintain kinds, which settle what they’ll join to. In varied phrases, which events will goal off their execution. The fashionable-or-garden-vogue packet filtering use case is soundless there. It’s a program of the BPF_PROG_TYPE_SOCKET_FILTER form.

But at some point soon of the final decade or so, Linux has been accumulating an heaps of infrastructure for performance analysis, that provides tracepoints and probe aspects nearly all around the kernel. You have to well well additionally join a tracepoint, to illustrate, to a syscall — any syscall — entry or return aspects. And thru the BPF_PROG_TYPE_KPROBE and BPF_PROG_TYPE_TRACEPOINT kinds, it is likely you’ll maybe well join bpf capabilities for sure anyplace.

Doubtlessly the most ob

Read More

Recent Content